Vin Greco's weekend wine: Keeping scoreFriday, August 23, 2013 by: SooToday.com Staff
Vin Greco is well known locally for his wine expertise.
His interest in wine has been life-long.
Currently he conducts tastings, formal or informal, upon request, and twice a year partners in a tasting with Chef Ian Thomlinson Upstairs at Rome’s.
This week Vin's delves into the methods of scoring highly-rated wines and suggests online sources you can surf to keep score. .
Then of course he gets down to his best wine suggestions on offer this week
What’s The Score?
With the next Vintages release of August 31 focusing on highly-rated wines, it might be worthwhile to reflect on some of the different scoring methods and the people doing the scoring.
Every two weeks, the LCBO puts out a mini-catalogue, available in print or on-line, describing the product on the up-coming release.
Naturally, as sellers, they give a positive review.
If, as is usually the case here in the Sault, there isn’t an opportunity to sample a wine before you buy, the reviews can be helpful, but it is also useful to understand the scoring system employed.
The more familiar you are, too, with the person or organization providing the review, the better you can develop your sense of how your tastes align with theirs.
The latest catalogue gives a good summary of the scoring systems, with the 100 point system used by Robert Parker Jr., and American publications such as The Wine Spectator, Wine and Spirits, and Wine Enthusiast.
The thing is, though, you rarely see reviews of wines scored lower than the upper 80’s anyway.
While they can break down what the marks are given for, from colour to aroma to finish etc., we never see that analysis.
To me, a mid 80’s score means you expect a decent wine and don’t intend to pay a lot for it.
A high 80 suggests it will be pretty good, and a 90 becomes the benchmark golden seal of approval.
Creep over 90, and usually you start to find something exceptional, but now, knowing the critic can be important.
Australian guru James Halliday at winecompanion.com.au frequently rates wines above 90, but his 90’s seem more generous than, let’s say, those of the Wine Enthusiast.
You have to match your expectations with your experience of how a particular critic applies the scoring system.
Robert Parker Jr. along with his colleagues is probably the most widely followed critic.
He seems to appreciate wines that fit a certain, very flavourful profile.
His influence, along with that of wine advisor Michel Rolland, has resulted in wineries all over the world trying to emulate that style.
In the documentary, Mondo Vino, this influence was criticized by those who felt that, instead of expressing the character of wines associated with a particular place – terroir - there was a danger of wines losing their distinctive regional qualities.
Bottom line, though, is that if you enjoy the kind of wine that the Parker group esteems, then theirs is the score that you watch for.
Decanter is Britain’s main wine magazine, and it reflects a different perspective.
It uses a 5-star system, but in its World Wine Awards turns to Gold, Bronze Silver, and Honourable Mention.
With stars, 5’s seem to be given grudgingly, and anything with four ought to be excellent, and 3 worthy.
Winecurrent.com is a free on-line site that reviews the Vintages releases and picks out the highlights using the 5 star system as well.
The most highly respected reviews for French wines is Le Guide Hachette, while with Italy it is Gambero Rosso.
Both use just a 3 star – or 3 glass – measure.
They may hedge this with a + sign, to separate the pack a little. In both instances a “3” is excellent.
The Guide Hachette may be slightly stingier in its awards, and in both cases, getting one star or glass indicates a very good wine.
Vintage Assessments.com is published here in Ontario bi-weekly by Michael Vaughan using the 3 star system with “plusses”.
To view requires a subscription.
Currently there’s a $20 discount available at the site.
I’ve found his perceptions to be valuable for a few reasons.
I trust his judgment, and he gives an independent assessment against which you can judge the Vintages description.
Also, in comparing prices with the previous release of the same wine, and often, too, with the price of the same wine in, say, the United States, he helps create an understanding of the value the wine might represent.
Now for the wines.
Gallo Family Laguna Vineyard Chardonnay 2009, California, $19.95 – Parker ranked it 91, and Michael Vaughan gave it ***, calling it ”ripe, toasty, and ready” The Gallo website offers the 2007 for $28 U.S.
We have only 6 bottles coming, and so you would be wise to phone in an order by Tuesday. (705-759- 7740).
Excelsior Chardonnay 2012, South Africa, $12,95 – Stephen Tanzer says it’s ”a touch sweet”, but balanced with good acidity scoring 88, while Vaughan gives it **, remarking on its medium body and lingering toasty finish.
None is currently expected, though - call soon to order.
Domaine de Laguille Petit Manseng 2010, France, $16.95 – Rarely seen, and not scheduled for the Sault (order, order order…) this is a Decanter 5-star richly lavoured, off-dry winner.
Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2011, New Zealand, $17.00 – There are 10 cases coming of this good value Pinot, with various reviews ranking very good to excellent.
There is structure here with ripe cherry and spice.
Carpene Malvolti Cuvée Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, Italy, $15.95 – The Globe’s Beppi Crosariol found characteristics of a Perry Cider (Pear) and scored it 91.
Breca Old Vines Garnacha 2010, Spain, $19.95 – Only 12 coming of this wine which ought to be fruit –forward.
Parker wrote, ”It may be the most amazing wine I have ever tasted at this price in over three decades,” and gave it 94!
Mandrarossa Cartagho 2009, Sicily, $19.95 – 3 Gambero rosso glasses were given to this Nero d’Avola-based beauty, a solid wine suitable for current drinking or a few years in the cellar.
Only 6 have been shipped.
Domaine le Grand Retour Plan de Dieu 2011, Rhone, $13.95 Very dependable, this is a text-book Côtes du Rhone, providing some succulent red fruit flavours, and satisfying finish.
Guadelupe Red 2010, Portugal, $13.95 – This has received very high scores and is described as a plummy wine having tannins and acidity completely in balance.
Barco de Piedra Tinto 2011, Spain, $17 – 48 bottles of this beautifully crafted Tempranillo based wine are available.
Expect some blueberry and mineral notes and some elegance.
There are many more treasures coming on this release, as well as some good choices already in the store.
The big flavoured Small Gully The Formula Robert’s Shiraz is back in stock – briefly – at $18.95 It’s highly popular and won’t last long.
The Grinder, South Africa, $13.95 is a Pinotage crafted through barrel- charring to have some coffee flavour.
It’s intriguing, and is a great barbecue wine.
Compare it to the KWV Café Culture, $12.95, now on the regular list, to see how they stack up.
Several Limited Time Offers on until September 15 offer good value.
Rosemount Diamond Shiraz, $13.95, is $2 off, providing good length in a wine suggestive of plum, blackberry and vanilla.
Osborn Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon, $9.45 is a happy quaffer, also $2 off.
Apothic Red, $13.95, will please those who like their reds to have a kiss of sweetness – also $2 off.
Batasiolo Barolo, $25.95, is $4 off, but remember: most Barolos won’t be found for less that $40!
This will be quite dry, with violets on the nose, and earthy, dried cherry notes.
Barolos are wines that need to breathe to express themselves, so decanting in advance is a good idea.
Tik Tok Pocketwatch Chardonnay, $12.95, is $2 off from Robert Oatley, a well respected Australian winemaker.
The pedigree alone makes it worth trying.
Jacob’s Creek Moscato is only $9.95, $1 off for a sweeter fragrant white from another good Aussie firm in a style becoming more and more popular.
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, $16.95, $2 off, is a textbook example of that bracing gooseberry, grapefruit style of white wine.
Getting back to wine scores, this is a good example when it comes to matching your tastes with the scores.
I am not generally attracted to the “uber style” of Sauvignon Blanc wines, and so, the higher the scores, the further away I run.
There are others who love them.
With the grapefruit flavours in mind, one friend calls them his “breakfast wine”!
It really is a matter of taste!